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Firefighter killed in fatal Bridge City accident

By Debby Schamber

The News staff writer

BRIDGE CITY — Kenny Milton Harris, 29, of Orangefield, was killed around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, following a three-car accident on Texas Avenue in Bridge City.

Harris was traveling north in a Gilbeaux’s wrecker truck on Texas Avenue when the accident occurred. As he approached the traffic light at Osborne Street, police say Harris swerved to avoid hitting a vehicle stopped at the light — forcing his vehicle into the path of an oncoming tractor-trailer that was hauling cement piling to an area refinery.

The vehicle stopped in front of Harris at the light received minor damages, while the tractor and trailer were separated — causing the concrete pilings to be thrown to the side of the highway. Harris was pronounced dead at the scene, according to information from the Bridge City Police Department.

“He pulled off of that car to not hurt that family,” said Elgin Browning, longtime emergency responder of Harris’ likely reason for swerving to miss the car in front of his vehicle. “He was running heavy since he was pulling a car and knew what could happen.”

Co-workers of Gilbeaux’s Towing agreed his sacrifice serves as a testament as to what type of person Harris was.

“He would help everybody before he helped himself,” said Rickey Gilbeaux, owner of Gilbeaux’s Towing in Orange. “We all loved him.”

Pat Trahan who has worked with Harris over the past two years at Gilbeaux’s said, “He was always smiling and one of those great guys you really want to know.”

The small company of workers are all friends and have formed a strong bond. Trahan affectionately calls the drivers, “my boys.”

It wasn’t only at his job that he was admired, but by those at the West Orange Volunteer Fire Department.

Harris started his firefighting career as a junior firefighter when he was 14 years old. He moved up the ladder until he earned the title of assistant fire chief.

“He wasn’t afraid and there wasn’t a fire he wouldn’t tackle,” said Randy Vietch, WOVFD chief. “It was all about saving lives and protecting property.”

Vietch chuckled, however, as he remembered a time when Harris was not happy to be at the scene of a fire in Pinehurst.

“Kenny didn’t like snakes, but one time a big Boa came out of the walls during recovery efforts,” Vietch said.

Firefighters from all departments agree Harris was “a great guy.”

“We lost a brother firefighter and a very good friend,” said Grady Gray, fire chief for Pinehurst Volunteer Fire Department.

Although it is not only firefighters and co-workers who mourn his loss, but other first responders such as police officers.

“He was always willing to help out at accident scenes or motorists if he could,” said Officer Robert Arnold, of the Orange Police Department.

An account has been set up at Mid County Teacher’s Credit Union to assist Harris’ wife, Jennifer, and two young children. People wishing to make a donation to the Harris’ family can donate at any location. The account number is 94014.

Funeral arrangements are pending at Claybar Funeral Home in Orange.

According to Michael Simon, of WOVFD, it was Harris’ wish for his casket to carried on a fire truck during a procession. A procession is planned for Harris on Saturday, although definite plans have not been made.

Officials are requesting all fire, EMS and police to make arrangements to have representatives to participate and attend the procession.

“Things sometimes happen to remind you how important life is,” said Steve Vaughn, chaplain at the Orange Fire Department. “Life is only as good as the memories you have.”

Reach this reporter at 409-883-3571, Ext. 2613, or dschamber@orangeleader.com